Thursday, April 1, 2010

Writing Naked

Post by NCW Member Jenny Sundstedt

February 1st was Working Naked Day. Didn’t have it on your calendar, you say? Me, neither. I ran across it that morning while foraging in the Internet wilderness. According to Founder and Home Office Expert Lisa Kanarek, “Working Naked refers to the fact that when we begin working from home, we’re stripped of all of the corporate support that makes up our day-to-day existence.” It also means actually working sans clothing.

At first, I wondered who would be crazy enough to do it. Upon further reflection, I realized that my work is writing (though it’s frustratingly pro bono these days), and I write at home. Maybe I should be crazy enough to give it a try. What the heck, I might learn something about myself in the process.

I gathered my nerve, and, after boys and husband were out the door and the dog was walked, I retreated to the privacy of my basement computer, fired up the space heater, stripped down to my slippers, and committed myself to one hour of nude writing. No joke. I really did.

How did it go? Let’s just say it was a looong hour, but I made it through…barely (excuse the pun). I wish I could say I felt liberated, enlightened, or even merely silly. But, frankly, it was an uncomfortable experience. And not just because I was freezing. In the spirit of the classic Seinfeld episode comparing “good naked” and “bad naked,” I confess I am not a fan of casual nudity. If the UPS man is ever going to surprise me in the buff (mine, not his), he’s going to have to deliver right to my shower door.

I’m certain that Working Naked Day will not be an annual event for me, but I’m glad I tried it. First of all, I was immune to my normal distractions. I had zero urge to wander up to the kitchen for a snack. The thought of answering the phone made me blush. So, I got a lot of writing done.

It also made me grateful for all the times I don’t have to work naked, literally or figuratively. I may not have “corporate support,” but I’m so fortunate to have a great network of family and friends, and the wonderful Northern Colorado Writers community.

Last but not least, this experiment encouraged me to consider how much time I spend in my comfort zone. Like many writers, I love my comfort zone. If I, of all people, can work naked for an hour, I can certainly expand my writer’s horizons in other small ways. Fully clothed, of course.

What do you do to break out of your comfort zone?


Linda L. Henk said...

What do I do to break out of my comfort zone...that's a really good question. I guess the last thing I did was on Saint Patrick's day when I got up before sunrise and planted sweet peas in the garden. When I worked outside the home, I traveled a different way home after work until the evening when I turned left in front of traffic at Laurel and Mason. I tried to outrun the train and almost got t-boned. After that, I just snuck home every night the usual way.

Kay said...

Whenever I write, I push myself out of my comfort zone because I have a cranky hip and back.

Mentally, I guess that would mean being sentimental ... and I'm never that.

Seriously, I don't think you can hide when you write. Everything you are is all hanging out if you are saying anything meaningful.

Maggie said...

Writing Naked makes me think of one of my favorite writing mantras. When Chris Ransick was a keynote at NCW, he told us all that when he writes his first draft, it's like 'running through the church naked.' (referring to getting the story out, without restrictions or reservations) He went on to say that for his revision process, he 'puts on his suit and tie.'

What a freeing way to write. If you've never tried it, get 'naked' and run with your imagination.

Lisa Kanarek said...


I loved your post! You're right that (literally) working naked is a good way to break out of your comfort zone. The way I broke out of my comfort zone was by taping videos for my site, Keep up the good work and keep the heat turned up. :)

Patricia Stoltey said...

Okay, now you've made me laugh out loud. I thought you were this quiet, reserved Jenny...who knew?

To break out of my comfort zone...well, in 2007 and 2008 I did a whole lot of driving on I-25, one of my least favorite things in the world.

And if I really want to jump the harness someday, I'll take that hot air balloon ride I've wanted to do for 20 years. I always chicken out and never buy the ticket.

Jenny S. said...

Train-dodging, hot-air ballooning, driving on I-25...sounds like the makings of a great action sequence.

I enjoyed Chris Ransick's keynote very much, but I had forgotten about "running through the church naked." I appreciate the reminder, Maggie.

Lisa, thanks for your comment. Your website is fantastic.

Cricket McRae said...

Great post, lol! I've heard of writing naked, but since I always put on EXTRA clothes to survive the chill of my basement office (even with the space heater), I'm afraid I'd be too distracted to get much done.

Lately I've been writing a lot by hand. When I'm having a particularly thorny plot or character problem, I'll shake things up by writing with my left hand. It's slow, but seems to tap into a different part of the brain.

Michelle Mach said...

You're so brave! I break out of my comfort zone whatever way I can. I like to take non-writing classes (my latest one was needle felting) or writing classes in a completely different genre.

Marlena Cassidy said...

Last year I learned to write on a crowded bus with no music on and no privacy and it really helped me to break free of the necessity for absolute sterility in my writing space. Now I don't have to hide somewhere to get writing done.

I don't think I could ever write naked though. I'm too suspicious of my computer to trust it not to take an embarrassing picture of me somehow. But even though you found the experience to be uncomfortable, I'm glad that you learned from it, which is what really matters.

Edna Pontillo said...

I love your post and can identify with your sentiments regarding writing in your all together.Sometimes even writing is out of my comfort zone and sharing my writing almost always is. I wonder what that says about me. I admire you for giving it a go. You've inspired me to think of something way out and trying it.

Dean K Miller said...

I guess being the first male of the species to comment, society would expect me to man-up and admit that I do all my writing naked...but sorry, that is not true. Even our little dog would flee to the closet if I were to participate.

However, the nakedness that comes from deep soul-full writing feels just as, if not more so, exposing for me.

That's probably as close as I'll come to naked writing, unless of course you need a critique partner.....;-}

Heidi Windmiller said...

Now my mind is spiraling in all sorts of directions. Naked critique groups, naked conferences. We can change our name to Naked Colorado Writers.

Or maybe not. I have a feeling the realities of such changes would not be as enjoyable as my musings.

Kerrie said...

Heidi and Dean you both crack me up! :-)

John Paul McKinney said...

Jenny, This is a great blog as evidenced by the number and quality of comments - including this one, of course. Heidi, wasn't it Shakespeare who said, "All things are with more spirit chased than enjoyed"? Thanks for the thoughtful and entertaining blog, Jenny

April Moore said...

Hilarious, Jenny! I would feel way too uncomfortable to get any work done. My husband, who works from home, definitely wouldn't mind if I tried this, which would still lead to an unproductive writing day. I'm not sure how I would step outside my comfort zone as a writer, but I suppose walking through the inmate-filled yard at Folsom prison was WAY out of my comfort zone! That's about as far away from my bubble I want to go. :)

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